Ranking Football Clubs Around The Globe

Officially, there is no world ranking of club-level football, as for example for national teams. But wouldn’t it be nice to see how your favorite club compares to teams around the globe? Over several years, we gathered results of football matches in over 200 countries of more than 7000 teams. We adapted the FIFA ranking to fit club-level football to provide an always up-to-date (Our ranking is updated every Tuesday) ranking of teams around the globe.

Why adapt FIFA’s Ranking Procedure?

FIFA published their first world ranking of national teams in 1993. The ranking is since then perpetually under scrutiny by fans, media and domain experts. The majority of criticism targets the calculation procedure and the resulting discordance between perceived quality and ranking of several nations. Belgium’s surprising rank as world number 1 in November 2015, although they had only participated in one major tournament between 2003 and 2015, is just one of many examples. In June 2018, FIFA decided to update their ranking procedure again. The new scheme is now an adaptation of the famous Elo rating.

A critical and easily overlooked point is the infrequent match schedule. National teams only play a few relevant games a year, if at all. Determining a meaningful ranking with such a little amount of data is challenging to begin with. Thus, the question is if the observed irregularities stem from the inadequacy of the ranking scheme, or are simply an artifact of the sparse data basis.

We adapted FIFA’s ranking scheme to club-level football to see if the mentioned points of criticism also hold on a larger body of games. The world team ranking on our page should thus not be deemed as a try to accurately rank club-level football around the world, but rather as an experiment on the effectiveness of the underlying method. A more detailed description of our approach is given below. If you want to go directly to the ranking, use the bottom below.

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FIFA’s Ranking Procedure

The current version of the FIFA Ranking was introduced after the FIFA World Cup in 2018. The new ranking system is now an adaptation of the famous Elo rating and thus conceptually very different than the previous system. The basic formula is as follows: \[ P=Pbefore + I\times (W-We), \] where (Pbefore) are the points before a match.

The importance factor (I) weighs games of varying priority, including friendly matches ((I=10) for official and (I=5) for inofficial matches), group phase ((I=15)) and play-off matches ((I=25)) of Nations League competitions, qualification matches for the FIFA World Cup and continental final competitions ((I=25)), continental final competition matches before ((I=35)) and from QF stage onwards ((I=40)), and FIFA World cup matches before ((I=50)) and from the QF onwards ((I=60)).

(W) indicates the result of the match for the home team (win=1; draw=0.5; defeat=0; win by penalities=0.75; defeat by penalities=0.25) .

(We) is the expected outcome of the match, calculated as follows: \[ We=\frac{1}{10^{-dr/600}+1}, \] where (dr) is the difference in ratings of two playing teams (Pbefore Team A -Pbefore Team B)

For the initial seeding in the new ranking, teams where evenly distributed (4 point steps) in the range from 800 to 1600 according to the ranking published on the 9th of June 2018.

Caveats and potential weaknesses

The traditional Elo rating system is a zero-sum game. This means that the number of points won by Team A is the number of points lost by team B. As an example, say that Team A has 1300 points and Team B has 1500 points and they play a continental qualifier ((I=25)). For Team A, (We=0.32) and if they actually win they increase their rating by 17 points to 1317, while Team B goes down to 1483.

FIFA’s Elo procedure, however, is not a zero-sum game. Teams that would lose points in knock-out games do not lose any points. The motivation to do so is to protect the rating of teams advancing to knock-out stages. This will lead to an inflation of points in the long run, increasing the overall mean of points slowly.

Adapted Version for Clubs

The Elo based ranking of FIFA can easily be adapted for club level football. The only parameter is the importance factor (I). In our initial adaptation we set (I=10) for domestic league matches, (I=15) and (I=25) for Euro League and Champions League qualification rounds, (I=35) and (I=40) for Euro League matches before and from QF onwards, (I=50) and (I=60) for Champions League matches before and from QF onwards. The same holds for equivalent competitions in South America. In the remaining confederations, the Champions League competitions are only valued with (I=35) and (I=40), since they are not as competitive.

Other Rankings

Soccerverse is by far not the only platform publishing football rankings. Below you find a collection of other pages that publish official and unofficial rankings of the world or parts of it.

An official Club ranking in Europe is the UEFA Club Coefficient, used for seeding in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Similar official rankings exist for example for the Asian Football Confederation, AFC, and the Confederation of African Football, CAF.

clubelo.com uses the Elo rating system to rank all teams of the UEFA. The Elo system is a pretty simple formula, which makes it a very popular rating method in several sports. Developed for chess, it has since been used for NBA, NFL and tennis among others. There also exists a version for national teams as an unofficial counterpart of the FIFA world ranking.

Another Ranking for European football is the Euro Club Index. In its essence it is also related to the Elo system. Although the Euro Club Index and Clubelo have a similar underlying procedure, they produce slightly different rankings. Exploring these differences is certainly worthwhile.

A world-wide ranking is provided by footballdatabase.com. This ranking is yet again based on the Elo system and described in their methodology section. A very different approach is taken by clubworldranking.com. The side provides a world-wide ranking based on the ATP ranking procedure in tennis.